The visit of European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to the Philippines holds greater symbolic significance in terms of diplomacy than practical implications, said analysts, adding that it is unlikely to cause significant disturbances in the China-Philippines relationship, as China will continue to play an irreplaceable role in bilateral and regional affairs.
Von der Leyen met with Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr on Monday in a bid to improve ties that had soured in recent years over human rights issues, according to Deutsche Welle (DW).
She said in a joint statement that the first visit of an EU commissioner tothe Philippinesin60 years of diplomatic relations would help to “accelerate a new era of cooperation.” At the top of the agenda was an agreement tore-launchstalled free trade negotiations.
The visit comes at a time when the EU is assessing whether to extend special trade incentives, including slashed tariffs for a wide variety of products, to the Philippines.
The European Union trade incentives under the so-called Generalised Scheme of Preferences for the Philippines and seven other developing countries are anchored on their adherence to more than two dozen international conventions on human and labor rights, environmental protection and good governance.
The EU, the Philippines’ fourth-largest trading partner, would provide €466 million ($514 million) in funding to for the “transition to a circular economy, and the generation of green energy”through theGlobal Gateway sustainable investmentplan, said Von der Leyen, adding that the EU is also set to launch a “digital economy package”to improve connectivity and make the Philippinesmore attractive for European businesses.
The so-called “Global Gateway Strategy” proposed by the European Commission aims to further extend and enhance the EU’s influence in the Asia-Pacific region. This strategy aims to strengthen the EU’s supply chains, value chains, and industrial links to safeguard its trade and market interests in the Asia Pacific, Chen Xiangmiao, director of the world navy research center at the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, told the Global Times on Monday.
The implementation of the “Global Gateway Strategy” is bound to generate heightened geopolitical turbulence in the Asia-Pacific region. This is primarily due to Europe’s perception of China’s Belt and Road Initiative and other international economic and trade collaborations as a manifestation of China’s geopolitical expansionism, challenging and undermining the established international order. Consequently, there will be efforts to counterbalance and compete with China made by the EU, Chen added.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen warned on Monday that Europe would not tolerate “aggression” in Ukraine or the Indo-Pacific, as she renewed in a speech the European Union’s recognition of a 2016 arbitration decision that invalidated China’s expansive claims in the disputed South China Sea, as Euronews reported.
“Security in Europe and security in the Indo-Pacific is indivisible. Challenges to the rules-based order in our interconnected world affect all of us,” said Von der Leyen, adding that the EU backs a free and open Indo-Pacific “because an Indo-Pacific free of the threats of coercion is key to all our stability to our peace and to the prosperity of our people.”
Von der Leyen’s statement means that the geopolitical situation in the South China Sea will become more complex, as the EU, dominated by NATO members, extends its tentacles into the Asia-Pacific region, the center of global geopolitical competition is gradually shifting to the Asia-Pacific region, experts remarked.
Although China and the EU are each other’s important economic and trade partners, the EU’s policies in the political and security fields are still highly coordinated with those of the US. Therefore, the EU’s intervention in Asia-Pacific affairs is bound to be a support for the US policies in the Asia-Pacific and the South China Sea.
China always values its relations with the Philippines, and is ready to work with the Philippines to promote the steady and sustained development of bilateral relations, Chinese President Xi Jinping said during a meeting with former Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on July 17 at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing.
Despite the South China Sea issue posing some instability in China-Philippines relations, both sides continue to maintain close communication and coordination. In addition to this, extensive economic and trade cooperation between the two countries, along with cultural exchanges, also exert a positive influence on bilateral relations, which remain unshaken by external forces, Chen remarked.
Source : Global Times